Boy beats cancer after symptoms were initially mistaken for constipation

Marie Claire Dorking
·6 min read
Tommy Webster celebrates his sixth birthday at home in June 2020. (PA Real Life/Collect)
Tommy Webster celebrates his sixth birthday at home in June 2020. (PA Real Life/Collect)

A boy whose symptoms were initially mistaken for constipation is hoping to celebrate beating cancer by meeting his hero Stormzy. 

When Tommy Webster, from Banstead, Surrey, first started experiencing stomach pains, doctors initially believed he was suffering from constipation, but further tests revealed he had stage four hepatoblastoma – a rare liver cancer affecting only 10 to 15 children in the UK each year.

After his diagnosis, Tommy was given a 50/50 chance of surviving, but following 13 hours in surgery, involving operations on his lungs and a liver transplant, as well as chemotherapy, he has been declared cancer free.

Mum Kirstie Webster, 32, only discovered how gravely sick her son really was following eight weeks of going back and forth to doctors after Tommy developed persistent stomach pains in March 2020.

After pushing for him to have an ultrasound scan, Tommy was referred to Epsom General Hospital in Surrey at the end of April 2020.

A further CT scan at nearby Sutton’s Royal Marsden Hospital and a biopsy at London’s King’s College Hospital revealed a tumour on Tommy’s liver, which had spread to his lungs.

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Tommy has a pizza in hospital. (PA Real Life/Collect)
Tommy has a pizza in hospital. (PA Real Life/Collect)

Diagnosed with hepatoblastoma in May, Tommy began chemotherapy in early June, but was rushed to intensive care at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south west London, when his oxygen levels plummeted.

But thankfully, Tommy regained enough strength to continue treatment at the Royal Marsden.

After three cycles of chemotherapy, in October Tommy returned to St George’s Hospital for a four-hour operation on his lungs, which involved surgeons “squeezing” the organs outside his body to feel for the lesions they needed to remove.

“They had his lung in their hands outside his body,” his mother says. “The surgeon was squashing his lung in his hand.”

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Following the discovery of one "living" tumour, meaning cancer cells were still alive, Tommy required yet more chemotherapy.

But on 13 November, his mum was woken by a phone call with the news that a donor liver had been found for Tommy, who had only been on the transplant list for only 48 hours.

“He had a bad tumour on his liver, which they were planning to remove but it was too embedded into the organ, so it all had to be taken out,” Webster explains. 

“We had a call at 2am to say he had gone to the top of the list for a donor liver and an ambulance was coming to get us. There was no preparation – it was just a total ‘wow’.

“He had to go to Kings and be given a liver transplant, which went successfully. To this day he’s shown no signs of rejection and it’s working amazingly and functioning as it should.”

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Tommy and his brother, Teddy, at the Royal Marsden Hospital in July 2020. (PA Real Life /Collect)
Tommy and his brother, Teddy, at the Royal Marsden Hospital in July 2020. (PA Real Life /Collect)

After a seven hour operation, Tommy was taken to intensive care again, where his mother remained by his side.

Recalling the days after his op, she said: “It was the worst time of our lives. To go through something so dramatic and so horrible, I had to sit there and wait for him on my own, it was horrendous.”

But Tommy pulled through yet again, and now takes pride in showing off his surgery scar.

“He calls his liver scar his Superman scar and he’s proud of it and shows everyone he meets,” Webster explains. 

Then on 22 March, 2021, Tommy and his family were given the news they had been longing for.

“We were told Tommy has reached total remission and the cancer has all gone," his mum explains. 

“It was a very emotional day but very well deserved.”

There is still a chance Tommy’s cancer could recur and as a preventative measure, he is due another two weeks of chemotherapy, which will be his last. 

“If the cancer was to reappear anywhere in his body, there wouldn’t be much more the doctors could do," Webster says. 

“He will be at quite a high risk for the first two years and, if it were to return it would be quite a quick process, which isn’t a nice thing to hear.”

But Tommy’s incredible resilience continues to fill those who love him with hope.

“This is something no parent should go through with their child," his mum continues. "You feel so helpless and hopeless, but Tommy has been remarkable.

“It amazes me how he’s always so happy.

“He knows that as long as we’re fighting it together, he’s okay.”

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Tommy with his mum Kirstie, sister Lexie and brother Teddy on Mother's Day 2021. (PA Real Life/Collect)
Tommy with his mum Kirstie, sister Lexie and brother Teddy on Mother's Day 2021. (PA Real Life/Collect)

Returning to school, in Year Two at Banstead Infants School, is the next challenge on the horizon, but for Tommy, the more important goal is his dream of meeting his idol Stormzy.

“He used to go down to radiotherapy listening to his track, Vossi Bop, every day," said his mum.

“It’s been a big part of our story and it would be nice for Stormzy to know what an impact he’s had on my son while he was having treatment.”

After Tommy’s shocking diagnosis, Kirstie raised over £8,000 through a GoFundMe page, which she hoped to use to make his dreams, which included a trip to Disneyland, come true.

But while he has not given up on visiting the magical US theme park, coronavirus travel restrictions mean his dream of meeting Stormzy has taken precedence for now.

Commenting on his hope to meet his hero Tommy says: “I want to meet Stormzy when I ring the bell after my chemo finishes in May to show I’m cancer-free because he sings my favourite song, Vossi Bop, and I’d be happy to meet him.”

To contribute to Tommy’s GoFundMe page go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/lets-make-tommy-websters-dreams-come-true

Additional reporting PA Real Life.

Watch: Nine-year-old beats one of the rarest forms of cancer ever recorded. 

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